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By JoAnna Ness, Oct 21 2019 07:25PM

Although Charles “Chad” Craig became known as a star cross country runner, he was often sick as a baby. He struggled to gain weight and was in and out of the hospital. When the family found out that Chad had cystic fibrosis, his mother, Sheila Petry, was able to help him turn a corner. Sheila learned about special enzymes that would help Chad digest his food, and they gave him breathing treatments several times a day to help clear the mucus in his lungs. With these tools in use, Chad was finally able to gain weight and learn how to walk. They moved back to Steuben County, and Chad started school at Fremont Elementary. With the help of great teachers who called home when there were colds going around, he as able to stay safe and get an education. At the age of 5, a former Olympian named Hermon Phillips met Chad and said, “We’re going to make you strong.” Phillips ran the 400 meter dash in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, and he used his training to help Chad. They marked of distances in the road and Chad worked his way up, running a little farther each time. The exercise helped Chad gain strength, and his doctor prescribed running when he returned to school.

Chad loved football and wanted to play in school, but he was too small. Instead, he took up cross country and loved his coach, Bob Head. The owner of a local restaurant in Fremont, the Char-Boy, made a deal with Chad that every time he improved his score, Chad could get a shrimp dinner. That was a great motivation, and Chad became a cross country campion record setter. “He just had this inner strength that was amazing,” said Sheila. Chad ran 135 miles in the summer between his junior and senior year. “He ran because he wanted to beat cystic fibrosis,” said Sheila.

Chad went to Manchester University with scholarships, and graduated from Tri-State with a degree in biology and physical education. After graduating, he worked for his uncle, Sam, in the timber business. He loved riding horses and was a trained hunter and fisherman. He loved spending time with his brother, Todd, his sister, Candy, his nieces and nephews, and his partner, Kristi.

Later in life, Chad struggled more with his illness. He caught pneumonia and was hospitalized for a time. He became resistant to antibiotics after a lifetime of taking them to fight lung infections. However, his family remarked that Chad never complained. His response to people asking how he was doing was always something like, “oh, about average!”

The Chad Craig Memorial Scholarship Foundation was established after his death in 2009, and it has provided an annual scholarship for a Fremont student who was a member of Cross County for at least 3 years. Now, the fund will continue on in a new form, administered at the Steuben County Community Foundation. “We can breathe a sigh of relief,” shared Sheila Petry, “and I hope it keeps his memory alive in Fremont.” The family would like to thank the many community members and pool players who supported their fundraising for a decade. Additional contributions to the scholarship can be made through the Steuben County Community Foundation.

By JoAnna Ness, Sep 23 2019 08:28PM

Cahoots Coffee Café was founded in 2003 as a collaboration between Angola United Methodist Church and First Congregational United Church of Christ. Members of the two churches had concerns that there were kids around town in Angola who didn’t have a safe place to hang out after school and in the summer. They came up with the solution of establishing a café that supports programming for youth. The mission of Cahoots is to serve the youth by providing a safe, non-threatening, non-judgmental venue to share their talents and cultivate their own gifts and develop meaningful relationships with caring adults and peers. They make this clear by displaying their organizational covenants across large posters, which helps Cahoots remain a safe and fun place for everyone.

In addition to serving good coffee and food, Cahoots has a wide variety of programs that are designed to meet its mission. They offer open mic nights, poetry slams, game nights, snow day lunches, mentoring, and more. Another recent activity was a t-shirt contest, where they allowed students to design a shirt for Cahoots, then picked two winners to have their designs brought to life. The students were excited to see their artwork printed on a shirt for Cahoots.

Scott Poor, Executive Director of Cahoots, has been with the organization since fall 2018. “My favorite part about working with Cahoots is getting to know the young people and meeting community members who want to contribute to the success and mission of Cahoots.” He shared a recent story of kids who had attended open mic nights with 60 or 70 people. Initially they came to Cahoots as observers, but with time they were encouraged by other musicians and it built up their confidence. Now, you might see one of them up on stage as a performer.

Like many nonprofits, Scott shared that the board and volunteers of Cahoots are crucial to its success. Although they collaborate with a number of nonprofits and have received support from local businesses, raising money for their programming remains a challenge. He shared that Cahoots is “a home away from home” for some of the youth who have discovered its opportunities, and said, “I hope Cahoots can help kids who feel alienated and insecure.”

Check out the video nonprofit spotlight with Scott Poor:

By JoAnna Ness, Aug 20 2019 05:50PM

Friends of Pokagon is a new nonprofit working to help Pokagon State Park remain the great place it is. They serve as the fundraising and friend-raising arm of the park, creating buzz and excitement about park activities while fundraising for expansions to programming. Although general operations at Pokagon are supported by entrance fees, the state may not have the funds or may not prioritize certain projects at Pokagon like updating historic structures. Friends of Pokagon hopes to provide a new opportunity for the 680,000 people per year who visit the park to contribute to its long-term viability as well.

Kelly Trusty helped kickstart the group, and she’s excited to see it grow. “My favorite part is sharing the park with people and talking with them about all the features here.” Friends of Pokagon benefits from a diverse founding board, with a variety of skills and plenty of passion for Pokagon. “Everyone on the board has memories they cherish of visiting the park, and they want to make sure others have the same opportunity to make their own memories,” said Kelly.

By JoAnna Ness, Aug 8 2019 02:49PM

Dale and Lisa Caudill have been active community members since moving to Steuben County 30 years ago. From 101 Lakes Angola Kiwanis to the Community Humane Shelter, they have both served in leadership roles that help local nonprofits make a difference. For Lisa, serving on the Steuben County Community Foundation (SCCF) grants committee provided another opportunity to make a difference. As the grants committee was reviewing applications and learning about upcoming nonprofit projects, she had a “lightbulb moment,” realizing that the community foundation is a way to learn what the nonprofits are needing—from the perspective of an individual who wants to get involved. “Any person who wants to help can start a Donor Advised Fund at SCCF, and it opens up a huge door to the needs in our county. If they think, ‘I don’t know how to help, I don’t know what’s needed,’ then this gives them an answer.” In July of 2019, they established the Dale and Lisa Caudill Community Fund to do just that.

Dale and Lisa both grew up in Detroit, Michigan and attended rival high schools. Dale studied marketing management at Central Michigan University and had a long career with Kmart that led the couple to live in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio in both large and small communities. They came to Steuben County when Dale was assigned to open the Angola store in 1988, and he worked there as a manager for 12 years, then was a district manager. Lisa worked in banking for 25 years, then spent her last 5 years at the Steuben County Community Foundation before retiring in 2013.

When they first moved to Steuben County, they visited on a Sunday afternoon in January and saw the roads were deserted. Having grown up in a large metropolitan area, Lisa was afraid Angola was “too small.” As was typical in the retail world, Dale thought they’d be in the community for only three years. But when that first summer rolled around, they saw Steuben County change and began to meet people and get involved. As time went on, Dale began to turn down transfers to other Kmart locations, which was unheard of in those days. They fell in love with the area, and have never regretted their decision to make Steuben County their permanent home.

Dale and Lisa hope to use their Donor Advised Fund to support nonprofits that are providing crucial services and innovative programs for local community members. These funds are often permanently invested, and donor advised fund holders make recommendations for how to utilize the earnings to support community projects. Lisa shared, “We can’t do much about a lot of the world’s big problems. It can feel paralyzing to watch the news and feel helpless, but we’re certainly not helpless when it comes to concerns in Steuben County.”

Individuals can establish donor advised funds through Steuben County Community Foundation to learn about upcoming local initiatives and support projects that benefit the community.

By JoAnna Ness, Aug 7 2019 03:00PM

Isabell Deem will be a senior this year at Angola High School and is serving as the new president of Forever Improving Steuben County Together. FIST, a youth-led philanthropy organization, is supported by Steuben County Community Foundation. Isabell will lead members in 8th-12th grade from local schools to plan service projects, work with local nonprofit organizations, and review grant proposals.

Many of the programs FIST students arrange require planning months in advance. Isabell hopes to make improvements to planning so programs are more effective. She also looks forward to working with the school systems and the community organizations that young people are familiar with to make Steuben County better for the youth. Recently, a student from Pleasant Lake Elementary School recognized Isabell and other FIST members at a local event because of a philanthropy program they led earlier in the year. She recalled with excitement that students they worked with remembered who they were.

When asked about her hopes for the coming year, she stated, “I want to help inspire other members to lead, and to make the biggest impact that we can.” Isabell’s favorite part of FIST is the people who put their time and energy into working towards a common goal of bettering the community. She shared that the way our community can quickly and easily come together continues to blow her mind. From programs like Trick-or-Treat for Canned Goods or Liv It Up, it is easy to see Steuben County wants to help.

Isabell shared that FIST has helped her to feel like a “go-getter” and has bolstered her confidence. She has gained valuable skills from working with a variety of people and organizations in Steuben County. Isabell is an active member of her community outside of FIST as well, working with Leaders Save Lives to organize a blood drive, serving as president of Key Club, serving on the Mayor’s Youth Council, National Honor Society, and Student Council, mentoring younger students through the SWARM mentorship program, and competing in Academic Bowl and on the golf team. She will also be learning more about Health Sciences through the Health Occupations Education course this year. Isabell plans to pursue a medical career after high school with hopes to study Chemistry or Bio-Chemistry at college.